Tag: ned bustard (page 1 of 1)

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver

To Santa, or not to Santa—that was the question. We were new parents raised with Santa-rich holidays, and that first Christmas with our first baby, that decision sat before us, ours to make. But how? The Christian literature on the subject was plentiful and opinionated: those for Santa argued against Christmases devoid of magic and wonder; those against claimed that inviting Santa to the party was akin to lying to our child. And so we sat in the middle, pondering (between diaper changes) how this momentous decision would affect our daughter into adulthood and whether she would, one day, discuss it with a therapist.

I overthought it, of course. It wouldn’t be a Rosenburg decision if I hadn’t.

It seemed to us that there must be a third option. Beneath the commercial Santa of our youths there was a saint of legend—a man imbued with the ability to defy time and space and celebrated long before Black Friday was a thing. Beneath the legend, there was a historical man—but who was he? After lots of research and conversations with friends, we landed on “not to Santa”—but to Saint Nicholas!

And so on December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, the shoes in our house mysteriously fill with chocolate coins, and we curl up before breakfast with a book about Saint Nick. Right there at the start of Advent, we discuss who Nicholas was and what’s up with Santa. Then we spend the rest of Advent talking about Jesus.

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

Ned Bustard’s new release, Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, captures that whole spectrum of Nicholas’s story, from faithful Christian bishop to man of myth and legend. In this sweet rhymed book, Bustard—illustrator of Church History ABCs and Every Moment Holy—shares Santa’s origin story with the youngest readers and shows how the historical man became “Good Saint Nick.” This is a both/and book: we can tell our children the story of Saint Nicholas and we can celebrate Christmas in a way that holds Jesus at the center. Bustard’s linocut illustrations make this book feel both historical and magical. In his “Note From the Author,” Bustard writes:

“Both history and legend portray for us a man moved to action by his faith. The apostle John wrote that we love because God—the greatest Giftgiver—first loved us. And it was God’s generous love that filled Nicholas with gratitude, prompting him to respond with love and generosity to others.”

Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver, by Ned Bustard | Little Book, Big Story

This is the heart of Nicholas’s story—not the presents, the traditions, or the stockings, but his faithful obedience to the true giftgiver. Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver gets this just right.


Saint Nicholas the Giftgiver
Ned Bustard (2021)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

Bible History ABCs

I don’t know what you thought when you saw the title of this book, but I thought, “Yes, a new one!” I have long loved Church History ABCs and Reformation ABCs and, frankly, everything I’ve ever read by Stephen J. Nichols or seen by Ned Bustard, so I had a hunch I’d love this book too.

Bible History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

But I also thought, “Oh, nice, Bible History ABCsas in the history of the Bible.” What it is, though, is much better than that: Nichols uses the alphabet as a framework for telling the entire story of Scripture, from Adam to Zion. It has all the fun wordplay of the first two books, as well as more of Ned Bustard’s illustrations, which are somehow always just what a book needs.

Bible History ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

Bible History ABCs includes a bunch of bonus material in the back—the sort of thing I like to get distracted reading while trying to tidy up our books—and tucked away in those last pages is a little spread about the history of the Bible. (Well played, sirs.) So this is not just an engaging look at the story of Scripture, but a thorough look at the story of Scripture. And it’s a book our family will revisit often, I can tell.


Bible History ABCs
Stephen J. Nichols; Ned Bustard (2019)


Disclosure: I did receive copies of these books for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so

Every Moment Holy

I came of age as a Christian in a church plant “for people who don’t like church.” We were reinterpreting church, making it new for those who had grown up in stodgy, liturgical places and hungered for something heartfelt and sincere. We were a composite of black sheep: some of us had never gone to any church at all; others had drifted in from mega-churches, in search of a tighter, more authentic community. Most of us owned skateboards. We were all under thirty.

Mitch and I were married in that church when I was nineteen, but within the year, we gradually stopped attending—I don’t remember why. For a few years, we didn’t attend anywhere. But eventually we found ourselves at another small church plant, this one full of people who were not running from the church, but to it: some of them, like us, refugees from churches that had jettisoned doctrine in a dive toward “relevance.”

We heard a call to worship and prayed the Lord’s Prayer every week. We took communion not at special believers’ services, but every Sunday, together. We looked into one another’s eyes as we broke the bread.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

It was through this church that I began to appreciate liturgical worship. I didn’t notice it happening—at first, I read clumsily through the bold print in the bulletin, not sure what I was supposed to feeling as I read.

Years later, a decade in perhaps, I began to understand that I didn’t have to adjust my feelings before reading the liturgy, but that God can use a good liturgy to shape my feelings and affections. No matter what I am grappling with when the service starts, by the time I’ve recited and responded and prayed and sung “The Doxology” and received the benediction, the Spirit has unstuck my heart from my worries and oriented it once more toward God.

It is a quiet work I cannot control. And it is one we participate in together, every Sunday.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Every Moment Holy invites liturgies into the home, around the table, outside under the stars—it is a collection of liturgies written by Douglas Kaine McKelvey (a writer I very much admire) and illustrated by Ned Bustard (an illustrator I also very much admire). These liturgies are prayers, meant to be read alone or together; in unison or in a call-and-response exchange. They are intended, as Andrew Peterson writes in the book’s introduction, to “edify you, reshape your thinking, recalibrate your compass, ignite your imagination, and pique your longing for the world to come.”

And they do: the words themselves set my thoughts running along new lines, and they draw my eyes upward in moments that may not normally elicit prayer. “Upon An Unexpected Sighting of Wildlife,” for instance. “Upon Feeling the Pleasance of a Warm Shower.”

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

These liturgies are not only for Sunday mornings, but for the week-in, week-out trials and celebrations that we often hurry through. Pausing to read “A Liturgy for the Preparation of a Meal” or “Liturgy for a Moment of Frustration at a Child” reorients our thoughts toward the One who gives us hands and herbs and aromatics and children who challenge our sense of order.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Though I had begun to appreciate liturgies at our last church, it wasn’t until that church dissolved and we started attending our new church that I truly began to love liturgies. We closed that final service with “The Doxology,” and the next week stepped into our first service at our new church knowing that we didn’t have to muster up certain feelings during worship but that we could rest in the familiar rhythm of the liturgy.

Every Moment Holy, by Douglas Kaine McKelvey | Little Book, Big Story

Participating in the liturgy of a new church was like hearing a beloved piece played by a different musician: we heard variations, but the melody still came through, beautiful and clear. At the end of the service we could sing with our new church family, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,” and by then we really meant it.


If you’re new to the idea of liturgy, or would just like to read more about it (besides reading Every Moment Holy, which is an excellent place to start), I highly recommend You Are What You Love, by James K. A. Smith. That book more than any other has helped shape my understanding of liturgy.


Every Moment Holy
Douglas Kaine McKelvey; Ned Bustard (2017)

Reformation ABCs

Thank you all so much for your encouraging words after my last post! You all are good people, and it was such a joy to hear from you. And I know I said that I was going to post every other week, but when I sat down to my calendar this morning and started scheduling posts two weeks apart, I hated it. I’ll stick to my word for a while, but I may not last long publishing at half speed—we’ll see. But here, today, is a new post about a new favorite book:


One of the books that inspired me to start this blog was Stephen J. Nichols’ Church History ABCs. From the illustrations to the topic to the fun Nichols clearly has with language, I had to share it with friends, family, the school, and our whole church body. A book blog seemed the best and most expedient way to do that. So I started one.

But now Nichols and illustrator Ned Bustard have a new book out. And it’s even—gasp!—better than the first one.

Reformation ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

While Church History ABCs highlights figures from various points of church history, Reformation ABCs focuses on figures within a single time period. That narrowed focus makes this book a little easier to pair with history curriculum or Reformation Day celebrations, but by viewing stories through a smaller historical window, it also yields a host of fascinating biographies on people whose lives overlapped either in friendship or influence (or both).

Reformation ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

The book itself has a smaller format than Church History ABCs, and because these books are written for the late elementary crowd, I like that. These are picture books for kids who might think they’re too old for picture books (as if there is such a thing!), and I think the smaller format on this book allows it to sneak in there, right between the picture books and the chapter books. Ned Bustards illustrations are still striking and I love them; Stephen Nichols’ language is still quirky and engaging, and I love that.

Reformation ABCs, by Stephen J. Nichols | Little Book, Big Story

In short, Reformation ABCs took a bunch of things I loved about Church History ABCs, added some other stuff to it that I also love, and made a beautiful new book that I couldn’t wait to share with you.


Reformation ABCs
Stephen J. Nichols; Ned Bustard (2017)

The Church History ABCs

History was, for me, a recent discovery. I know that sounds strange, but it was a pleasant surprise to find in history a genre that I simply hadn’t noticed—at least, not until Stephen Ambrose introduced me to the fascinating possibilities of the historical narrative.

Now I love the idea of sharing history with our children at a young age, as it is a comfort to know that others—in wildly different clothes, of course—have trod certain paths before us. Lydia and I talk a lot about fiction and nonfiction (this is how Santa was exposed, actually) and, when reading a new book, that is often one of her first questions: “Is this story fiction or nonfiction?” She leans into a book with a certain enthusiasm when she learns that this is a story that really, truly happened.

The Church History ABCs | Little Book, Big Story

The Church History ABCs offers not one true story, but twenty-six, in concise words and bold illustrations, emphasized by a striking graphic layout. Each letter of the alphabet represents a major figure in church history, from Augustine to Ulrich Zwingli (don’t worry: I hadn’t heard of him either).

Their biographies are told briefly within the context of the book and at more length in an appendix, which makes this a great book for a wide age range. There’s a lot to talk about here, so be prepared: theology, politics, persecution and martyrdom all make appearances, so this is a good one to read with your child so you can answer questions as they come up.

The Church History ABCs | Little Book, Big Story

This book also makes a great gift for your Reformation-loving friends, if you have those (we have lots). We don’t own our own copy yet, but it’s come through our home a number of times as gifts for others, and  Lydia always wants to read it when it does—with Sarah at her shoulder, calling out letters. That’s a sure sign that our small audience gives a book four thumbs up.


The Church History ABCs
Stephen J. Nichols, Ned Bustard (2010)